“You shall have no other gods before me” Exodus 20:3
A week before I turned sixteen, my father bought me my first motorbike. I was filled with excitement, trepidation and awe. In fact, it was more than awe, I worshipped that bike. It was a gleaming god to carry me into manhood. I knew that once I was sitting on it, women would find me irresistible and men would know I’d arrived. I’d be the king of the mountain.
There was one little problem though. I didn’t know how it worked. So at school the next day I asked some of my buddies to teach me the basics. The first lesson followed that afternoon in my back yard. My friends knew as little as I did about operating a motorbike, but we figured some things out and I climbed on for my first ride.
After starting the bike, pulling in the clutch, and kicking it into first gear, I opened the throttle, released the clutch, and took off with a lurch down the lawn. It was magnificent. The wind was whistling through my hair, my friends were admiring my prowess, and … I didn’t know what to do next! No one had told me how to change gears or how to operate the brakes.
There I was careering down the garden with nothing but the vegetable patch and a brick wall ahead of me. My friends were yelling and screaming instructions but it was too late; the front wheel connected with an enormous cabbage, I was bucked off, and the bike landed on me with the engine still running and the exhaust pipe burning into my bare leg.
My friends laughed fit to bust. I didn’t think it was funny. My god had turned on me, bucked and burnt me, and worse of all, made me lose face. It didn’t stop me though. By the end of the afternoon I was roaring up and down the street and by suppertime Suzuki had proven itself worthy of my adoration. It was everything I expected a god to be. In the months ahead I lovingly polished it, rode it, and introduced it to everyone who’d care to look at it.
Three years later I discovered Suzuki wasn’t a god. That was when I met the living God, the One who said “You shall have no other gods before me” Exodus 20:3.
People are incurably religious. When the Lord isn’t in first place, we find all manner of substitutes. For me it was Suzuki, followed by Yamaha, Honda and a number of high-performance off-road motorbikes. When our loyalty isn’t for God, we find other gods as objects of our affections. The following are some of those gods. If you recognize any of these gods as having stolen your loyalty, you should confess, repent, and ask the Holy Spirit to incline your heart to God and God alone.
There’s the god of nature. When people should be in church worshipping the Lord, you sometimes find them on the golf course, out fishing, skiing down a mountain, or having a visit at someone’s cottage. But the trees, the flowers, the water, the snow, and the grass, although given to us by God for our pleasure, can’t comfort our hearts in sorrow or walk with us through the valley of the shadow of death – only God can do that.
There’s the god of health and fitness. If for the sake of your health and fitness you can’t make it out to a Bible study or fellowship meeting because you work out at the gym then you’re worshipping the wrong god. Health and fitness are wonderful gifts from God but we’re not to put them before the Lord.
There’s the god of sports. Some people can tell you about nearly every player in a particular sport. They devour the sports page in the newspapers, watch sports games on television, travel to sport meetings with their children, yet neglect or have little time for God’s Word. The heroes of the diamond, the basketball court, the ice rink, the soccer field, and the gridiron are more familiar to them than the heroes of the Bible.
There’s the god of pleasure. The Bible speaks of people who are “lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God” 2 Timothy 3:4. Every advertisement in the papers, on television, on the internet, and on the radio scream out that you can find happiness and pleasure in the things of the world. Now God’s not against pleasure that’s clean and uplifting but He won’t share Himself with anything that takes you away from Him.
There’s the god of popularity. Hollywood and the media thrive on creating celebrities. Singers, actors, business executives, politicians, and sportsmen and women are given preeminence in our society. People want their signatures, their clothes, and their values. What Bill Gates, Oprah Winfrey, Michael Jordan, George Bush, or one of the members of N’SYNC says is often more important than what Jesus Christ says. But God will not share His glory with any celebrity and all who worship images or boast to idols will be put to shame (cf. Psalm 97:7).
There are other forms of refined idolatry, but you get the point. The gods of nature, health and fitness, sports, pleasure, and popular celebrities are not the real thing. They may bring temporary happiness but it will be short-lived. To have real and lasting fulfilment in life you must have no other gods before Him.